Meet the Latest Foundation Using the Power of the Arts to Help Veterans

We've been seeing an uptick in grantmakers earmarking money towards veterans-related arts organizations as of late. Funders ranging from the Doris Duke Charitable Trust to the James Irvine Foundation have shown a consistent commitment to use the arts as a way to engage with military communities and help veterans return to civilian life.

Then there's the Disabled Veterans National Foundation (DVNF), which exists to provide critically needed support to disabled and at-risk veterans who leave the military wounded—physically or psychologically—after defending our safety and our freedom.  

The foundation's stated priority issues include addressing alarmingly high military and veteran suicide rates, homelessness, and unemployment through the Health & Comfort program and various empowerment resources. But the foundation also sees the important role the arts can play in supporting their constituencies.

For example, the foundation recently awarded the New York City-based dance company Robin Becker Dance (Life Through Dance Inc.) a capacity building grant to help support performances of their dance work Into Sunlight. The work provides veterans, their families, and caregivers with the opportunity to:

Experience a dance work that gives voice to their experience and resonates on a very deep level, which in turn has proven to inspire dialog, healing and give hope; offer a safe, supportive environment for self-expression during post-performance discussions; and facilitate movement workshops that will help veterans recognize where they are carrying their trauma and give them ways to manage it.

Movement workshops are appropriate for all individuals, regardless of physical capacity. To that end, the gift—and with it, many of the DVNF's funding priorities—speak to a deeper acknowledgement that it takes more than solely physical medical treatment to heal veterans.

According to a piece by the National Initiative for Arts and Health in the Military entitled Arts, Health and Well-Being Across the Military Continuum, a growing body of evidence indicates that arts programming provides service members and veterans the opportunity to "express themselves and share their stories, which can help them cope with stress and alleviating symptoms of post-traumatic stress (PTS), traumatic brain injuries (TBI), and depression." What's more, the arts also help spouses and children cope with the stresses of pre-deployment, deployment, and post-deployment.

The DVNF's give to a dance organization echoes the work being done by Blue Star Theatres Grant Program in the theater space. Created by Theatre Communications Group (TCG) and Blue Star Families, the program awards $5,000 each to help select theaters engage with veterans and members of the military community.

DVNF CEO Joseph VanFonda sums up thinking behind this grant succinctly, noting the "DVNF seeks to fund programs that positively affect veterans in unique ways, and this fascinating program certainly fits that bill. We’re hopeful that this funding will foster the positive impact Robin Becker Dance is making."

Click here for a full list of DVNF's organizational grant recipients.